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More than 200 migrants storm Morocco-Spain border

Thousands of migrants have attempted to enter Europe in recent years [File Photo: AFP]

Date of publication: 7 January, 2018

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Officials said more than 200 migrants stormed over a high double fence separating Morocco from the Spanish-African enclave of Melilla on Saturday.

More than 200 African migrants stormed over a high double fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Saturday, officials said, leaving some of them and a police officer injured.

A total of 209 people from sub-Saharan Africa seeking to get to Europe forced their way across the fence in the afternoon, the central government's representative office in Melilla said in a statement.

The police officer who was injured was "attacked by an immigrant with one of the hooks they use to clamber up the fence" as he tried to stop them, the statement said, adding the implement cut his earlobe.

In order to get across, migrants often use hooks and shoes studded with nails.

Four of the migrants, meanwhile, were sent to hospital for minor injuries, it added.

Mobile phone footage broadcast by Spanish media showed a group of migrants running through the streets of the city. 

They have since been taken to a migrant detention centre.

The barrier is composed of two six-metre-high (20-feet-high) fences, with criss-crossing steel cables in between.

Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave nearly 400 kilometres (250 miles) away on the north coast of Africa, are often used as entry points into Europe for African migrants.

They have the only two land borders between Africa and the European Union.

Over the years, thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the 12-kilometre (7.5 mile) frontier between Melilla and Morocco, or the eight-kilometre border at Ceuta, by climbing the border fences, swimming along the coast or hiding in vehicles.

Spain is increasingly targeted by people desperate to reach Europe from Africa, with the number of migrants reaching the country in 2017 hitting a record high of nearly 22,900, according to EU border agency Frontex.

This was more than double the previous record set in 2016.

It came a day after reports at least 25 people were feared to have drowned in a shipwreck off Libya after a dinghy, possibly carrying some 150 migrants, ran into trouble, two rescue organisations said on Saturday.

"Rubber dinghy sunk north of Tripoli. At least 25 people died in the incident, exact numbers still unclear. Italian navy on the scene," the German charity Sea Watch said on Twitter.

The Italian coast guard told AFP 85 people had been rescued from the sinking vessel, and eight bodies recovered so far.

It was believed to be the first shipwreck of 2018 - though rescue organisations say countless dinghies attempting to cross the Mediterranean are likely to sink without a trace, meaning the year's death toll may have begun even earlier.

Last year, 3,116 people died trying to cross from North Africa to Europe, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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